March 22, 2020 is George Benson’s 77th Birthday, Happy Birthday George!
George is a GRAMMY Hall of Fame inductee, having been nominated 25 times and won 10 GRAMY awards. His first award was 1976, when he received 5x nominations and won 3x awards including Best R&B Instrumental Performance for the Theme From Good Kind Bad. The 1976 awards were the perfect segue between Jazz George and Popular George, winning Record of the Year for This Masquerade and Best Pop Instrumental Performance for Breezin’ – what a year!
What to say about George that hasn’t been said before, probably nothing? My collection as it currently stands has 81-albums that have some contribution by George. I’m still looking for seven more that he has appeared on, of those, four are compilations, two are better quality copies of the release I already have, and the last is Stonebone which I wrote about earlier and will be available on Record Store Day 2020.
Bensons autobiography is as always a fascinating read, especially since he spent a long time with Creed Taylor, relatively. Just like when reading Maurice White, and Ramsey Lewis auto/biographies, I was left shaking my head in disappointment and anger with how they were treated when young.
George has much to say about his time with Creed, and especially about Wes Montgomery and Verve, then A&M CTI and onwards.
Creed Taylor was a listener, and I don’t mean just when it came to music. A quiet cat with a heavy presence, he paid close attention to what was going on around him; it seemed that to Creed, what you had to say was more important than what he had to sayGeorge Benson – The Autobiography with Alan Goldsher, P118
What ever happened between Benson and Taylor later, his time with Creed was phenomenally productive. George spent hundreds of days in the studio recording both as a leader, but more importantly for the overall CTI sound, a sideman. His contributions to the numerous CTI live albums, are one of the things that brings them alive, for me.
It’s well known that George and Creed had their differences over George singing on his tracks, scat or vocals, here is George talking about that
What ever Creed thought of his singing, Aretha Franklin loved it.
the most fun she had during the recording of the album [Love Hurt All The Way] was doing her duet with George Benson. “I Love George Benson, love to hear him sing,” Aretha proclaims.Aretha The Queen Of Soul – P199, Mark Bego
My first exposure to George was his Supership single in the UK. I still have it. It was a four-to-the-floor dance number that made it into the Pop Charts in the UK in late 1975, rising to #30 in October that year. Strangely, Supership seems to have been completely overlooked in the US, probably because it was essentially a dance music track that fitted in better with the emerging disco scene than it did with Jazz. While Creed had successes in disco, he never really showed any drive to take on that market, outside of the work done by David Matthews, especially with Esther Phillips.
As a result of Supership, I bought the Bad Benson album and was pretty disappointed there wasn’t more like Supership. Later I got Good King Bad and more of an appreciation of Benson the guitarist. Little did I know, some 45-years later I’d be buying one of Benson’s first ever recordings, The Altairs – Groovie Time 45.
Is really four+1, a take five, if you will. Starts out with Ode To A Kudu, from the 1971 CTI album, Blue Horizon. The two tracks as a sideman, the first from the 1970 Hubert Laws Crying Song, a track called How Long Will It Be; then, from Hank Crawford’s excellent 1972 album and title track We Got A Good Thing Going, listen as George comes in over Ron Carters bass, outstanding and a slice of what was to come in Breezin’; then it’s back to My Latin Brother, the B-side of Supership and from the 1974 album, Bad Benson. Finally, for some fun, I’ve included the B-side of the 1963 Altairs single, If You Love Me – I don’t know enough about George’s early singing to know if that’s him, but the guitar is, for sure, and his autobiography implies he sang.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY George!
Supership [George Benson 45 Release, 1975]
Bad Benson [Album, via music.yotube free to listen]
Something(For the weekend) [My edit of Something from the Other Side of Abbey Road]
George Benson albums [almost all of them, via music.youtube free to listen]